Posted on October 25, 2016
Seasons 1 and 2 of Black Mirror contained the seven most disturbing hours of television I’ve ever experienced. This is an anthology show that is not a dismal peek into our likely future but rather an alarmingly accurate portrayal of our present.
SPOILERS for Black Mirror seasons 1 and 2 and episode 1 of season 3 follow.
National Anthem is probably its best known episode in which the Prime Minister of Britain is forced by terrorists (actually a suicidal performance artist) to have sex with a pig on television and its most accurate episode will probably always be The Waldo Moment that perfectly predicted the Trump effect.
The other episodes are equally as bleak and upsetting, even its least liked episode, Be Right Back, has a grim kind of power to it. I actually think this is one of the best episodes as it raises all sorts of questions about what we will do with robotics once we get past the repulsiveness of the uncanny valley but others seem to think its a bit treacly.
This third season has almost as many episodes as the first two combined, something that worried me because part of Black Mirror’s power is its focus on quality over quantity.
The first episode of the third season is called Nosedive. It stars the always wonderful Bryce Dallas Howard as a social climber in a society that is basically driven by a ubiquitous Yelp-like app everyone uses to rate everyone else during every interaction.
Howard’s character needs to raise her rating from an adequate 4.2 to a very special 4.5 in order to get a discount on an apartment she wants to rent. The hour-long story follows her ever more frantic attempts to cash in on a friend’s wedding that will be studded with 4.5’s.
It’s well acted, well written and the production values are up to Black Mirror’s usual high standards but the story is a bit on the nose and goes over ground already covered more completely and more piercingly in season 1’s Fifteen Million Merits, an episode so potently depressing I nearly swore of the show after watching it.
We spend way too much time setting up a society that is only just one degree off of the one we already live in and then a simple mistake at the airport for which there should have been a systemic and institutionalized solution causes the downward spiral of single star ratings that propel us to the inevitable conclusion.
Howard really shines during the wedding meltdown and her jail cell redemption but her character is the only fully realized one in the whole show except for the momentary appearance of a Ghost of Christmas Future zero stars truck driver.
As i said above, the story is a bit on the nose and very predictable but It does have a nice ending with two characters, freed of their rating apps and now at zero stars for life, experimenting with speaking their minds without fear of retribution.
It’s not a bad episode. It’s just not a great episode. I would give it a 4.2 out of 5.